Monday, March 10, 2014

Review of The Reading Lessons by Carole Lanham

So Immortal Ink Publishing is putting out some books that are really testing the edges of my like and dislike lists when it comes to genre reading. Now, before anyone starts saying that all I do is review IIP books, I will challenge you by saying that no one is sending me anything or engaging with me on any level to get their book read...except those artists at IIP. So shame on you! LOL!

The Reading Lessons is an awesome book. Carole Lanham and I met each other on Goodreads and you won't find a more pleasant person on the planet. She wanted me to give her book a read and let her know what I thought. Man was I glad I met her and that I read the book.

Let me break this novel down for you.

Here's what it's about, as read from the Immortal Ink Publishing website:

Mississippi 1920: Nine year old servant, Hadley Crump, finds himself drawn into a secret world when he is invited to join wealthy Lucinda Browning’s dirty book club. No one suspects that the bi-racial son of the cook is anything more to Lucinda than a charitable obligation, but behind closed doors, O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright. What begins as a breathless investigation into the more juicy parts of literature quickly becomes a consuming and life-long habit for two people who would not otherwise be left alone together. As lynchings erupt across the South and the serving staff is slowly cut to make way for new mechanical household conveniences, Hadley begins to understand how dangerous and precarious his situation is.
The Reading Lessons follows the lives of two people born into a world that is unforgiving as a Hangman’s knot. Divided by skin color and joined by books, Hadley and Lucinda are forced to come together in the only place that will allow it, a land of printed words and dark secrets.

So let's get to what I like about this book:

Characters: Are you kidding me? There are more interesting characters in this book then you could read about in a dirty book club. Hadley Crump, Lucinda's gardener and all-around handyman is such a great guy and at times it feels like his entire life has been manipulated for him. It's powerful that the man is ruled by both the right thing to do and his emotions, all at the same time. Hadley Crump is a great main character with a ton of dimension. At times, I want to smack him upside his head, at times, I want to put my arms around his shoulder and tell him that everything was going to be alright.
Lucinda. What do you say about her? I was pissed at her a lot in this book which as it should have been. She is a pain-in-the-ass most of the book, but she is a REAL pain-the-ass that I believed all the way through. These two characters are the strength of this book. However the other side characters, like Dickie, Nina, Meg, and Flora lend a humanity to the story of Hadley Crump that makes it all very sad. Great characters is what brought me through this literary fiction book, which as I said is supposedly not my genre...supposedly.

Themes: The Reading Lessons is rife with themes: love vs. lust, racism vs. acceptance, loyalty vs. rebellion, and the best part was that they all happened organically, through the showing of story and not through the lecturing of someone on a soapbox. The storytelling was the thing, and the themes were just behind all the story-telling, making their point without any of the fanfare that typically follows literary fiction.

Historical significance: The history behind these periods of time lent to the authenticity of the novel. Thew author obviously did her homework because she used phrases I had never heard before that were obviously colloquial and regional language from these different time periods. I felt like I was in those times back in the 20's up to the 70's . Such a great examination of those eras of history.

Twisty-Turnys: This book didn't end the way I thought it would...not at all. As I approached the halfway mark, this book became about something that I was absolutely mesmerized by and the ending broke my heart and lended a poignancy to the whole story that was magnificent!

Altogether, I would definitely recommend this book to those who do not mind some sex, some sexiness, and some tough heartfelt feelings in a book. This is Literary fiction at it's best. Congratulations Carole Lanham, you proved again that I don't have a particular genre that I like to read. I'll read anything that is good!  Five stars! *****

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